Jenny Scarborough
Like mushrooms after the rain, they pop up


At their January meeting, the Ocracoke Advisory Planning Board began discussing “Pop-Ups”, their word for businesses operating from trucks, mobile carts, and stick built kiosks.

The Ocracoke Development Ordinance (ODO) did not anticipate the arrival of food trucks, hot dog carts and transitory vendors.  With no ordinance to guide him, building inspector Jerry Hardison is not regulating these businesses.

Food trucks, such as Eduardo's, the Corner Crepe, and Harbor Treats, meet Health Department requirements. Per sanitation requirements, they must have access to water and be hooked to septic.

Board member BJ Oelschlegel said the advisory board was discussing pop-ups because people had approached Commissioner Darlene Styron with complaints.

People want to know:

Norman Miller said that "years ago, when Byron was a teenager" he and his son were told "a trailer on wheels had to comply with setbacks."

One can walk around the village and see kiosks built since Byron's heyday in the 1980s that do not comply with ODO setbacks. Some food trucks may have parked closer than 8 feet from the property line.      

Corky Pentz pointed out that setbacks are a hot topic on Ocracoke.     

Because Ocracoke does not distinguish between residential and commercial districts, pop-ups should be treated as a "density issue," said Miller.  A pop-up "is fine for the guy walking down the street, but what if you are a neighbor?" he asked.   

One problem with the ODO, said Miller, is that "different building inspectors give different answers."     

Board member Tom Pahl agreed.  "I hear complaints not about the content of the ODO, but that it's not enforced fairly."  
Pahl called the ODO an "inelegantly written" ordinance.   

Hardison has complained that the ordinance lacks penalties.  He has no tools to bring people into compliance, said Oelschlegel.    

Hyde County Manager Mazie Smith asked, "Does Ocracoke need someone to enforce the ODO?  Is it at that point?"   

It was originally intended that Ocracoke have a local development officer, said Miller,  "But who would want that job?"   

There was discussion about whether the planning board should reconsider the ODO as a whole.  "We've been dealing with bandaids since we started," said board chair, Bill Rich.  The board began meeting in April, 2011.     

Hyde County Manager Mazie Smith characterized it as “one of the most organized and highly functioning boards I’m working with.”  She compared it to the ABC Board, which “hasn’t kept good minutes nor met regularly, and is about to go under.”     

Manager Smith said that if this board is willing to take on reviewing the entire ODO, she would encourage the commissioners to put it in the budget.     

Three of the six advisory board members were present.  A seventh, to replace Kirby Van Landingham, has yet to be appointed.  Lacking a quorom, no decisions were made.    

Further discussion about regulating pop-ups was tabled.   

The board meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m.  All meetings are open to the public.  The next meeting is February 9 at the Community Center.